Apple dominating Samsung in Japanese smartphone market

Japanese researcher says Apple is king of Japan's growing smartphone market; rival Samsung lags far behind

Nearly one in three smartphones sold in Japan last fiscal year was an iPhone, pushing Apple's sales far ahead of main rival Samsung in the country, according to data published by a local research firm.

In the year to March 31, 24.2 million smartphones were shipped in Japan, of which 30% were iPhones, making Apple the clear leader in the category, according to data vendor MM Research Institute. Samsung captured an 8.3% share, trailing Apple as well as domestic makers Sharp, Fujitsu and Sony.

Global data published recently has shown that the smartphone market is dominated by Apple and Samsung. IDC and Strategy Analytics estimated that Samsung overtook Apple for the top position in the January-March period, while iSuppli said Apple was the leader. A rough comparison of the numbers shows Japan makes up about 5% of the global smartphone market.

The two have traded the lead as they release new models, with Apple's launch of the iPhone 4S late last year giving it a boost during that stretch. Samsung is currently gearing up for the launch of its Galaxy S3 handset, due to go on sale worldwide over the next few months, while Apple is expected to release a new iPhone later in the year.

Apple's latest iPhone 4S gained subscribers at a sharp pace last year in Japan, the first time an Apple phone has been carried by two operators in the country. Au joined Softbank in offering the device, leaving only DoCoMo among Japan's main three operators without the phone. All three offer handsets from Samsung's portfolio.

The data from MM showed that smartphones made up 57% of total mobile shipments during the fiscal year, pushing Apple to number two in the overall Japanese handset market, behind Fujitsu. The growing smartphone market has lifted Japan's once-stagnant mobile market, pushing total shipments to 42.7 million, the first time that number has topped 40 million in four years.

Apple and Samsung are locked in patent battles in many countries including Japan, aiming to block sales of each others' products.

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